The Stunning Downfall Of MSNBC In Five Charts

MSNBC is “not the place” for breaking news, says… MSNBC President Phil Griffin. That’s a quote from his interview with the New York Times that ran on Sunday.

Viewers seem to agree: MSNBC has had a sharp drop in ratings over the last year and is now often placing fourth in viewers, behind Fox, CNN and HLN. With the election over and breaking news in strong supply, viewers are less interested in MSNBC’s opinion-heavy format and more interested in CNN’s straight-news focus.

First, here’s a look at MSNBC’s year-over-year numbers in primetime:

MSNBC primetime ratings

MSNBC averaged 539,000 viewers in primetime, which was down 20 per cent from last May. There was little better news in the key age 25-54 demographic, where its primetime audience fell by 19 per cent:

MSNBC primetime 25 54

One of the main reasons for the dip has been the sluggish start of “All In With Chris Hayes,” the network’s new 8 p.m. show. Hayes’ show has slipped 32 per cent from last year, when the network featured the liberal bulldog Ed Schultz in its 8 p.m. timeslot:

Ed Schultz Chris Hayes

In part because of “All In” serving as a lead-in for MSNBC’s flagship primetime program, “The Rachel Maddow Show” posted its worst ratings since 2008. Maddow’s ratings were down 21 per cent on a year-over-year basis:

Rachel Maddow ratings

Of course, there’s hedging to be had in year-over-year ratings comparisons that stem from a year with a presidential election, but the kicker comes in the comparison of MSNBC’s losses to subsequent gains from its competitors — Fox News, CNN, and even HLN.

CNN’s ratings were up 70 per cent, and HLN’s ratings were up an eye-popping 91 per cent.

Here’s a look at the network comparison in primetime, by average total viewers:

NielsenIn the interview with the Times, Griffin urged caution in his approach to interpreting the numbers, pointing out that Fox News’ ratings plunged to their worst mark in the first quarter in 12 years. But he acknowledged the increased competition from a new source MSNBC had routinely beat — CNN.

“We have to be aware of it,” he said. “We’ll figure out how to deal with their aggression in our own way.”

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